Social Media Sensationalism in the Male Infertility Space: A Mixed Methodology Analysis.

Infertile couples increasingly turn to the internet for medical guidance. The aims of this study were: (1) to identify popular male infertility content on social media, and (2) to assess the accuracy and quality of this content. We hypothesized that inaccurate/misleading information proliferates online.

We used the analytics module BuzzSumo to identify article links that were most shared on Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, and Twitter related to male infertility during September 2018 to August 2019. We excluded articles with <100 engagements, defined as "likes," "comments," and "shares." Two researchers graded content as accurate, misleading, or inaccurate by comparing content to references cited and contemporary research. Inter-rater reliability was determined with Cohen's κ. Binary logistic regression was performed to compare user engagement with accurate versus inaccurate/misleading articles.

Fifty-two unique article links were identified, with 421,004 total engagements. Thirty-four articles referenced 15 scientific studies; no reference was available for 18 links. Fifty-six percent of articles were accurate and 44% misleading/inaccurate (κ=0.743). No significant difference was found in total engagement between accurate vs. misleading/inaccurate links (p=0.805). Twenty-four percent of engagements referenced studies using non-human models, and 26% of studies had sample sizes <100.

Social media platforms foster engagement with male infertility information. However, sensationalism predominates, as patients are highly likely to encounter misleading/inaccurate information, articles that overstate implications of animal research, and conclusions made based on limited sample sizes. Urologists should consider adding social media to their armamentarium to stave off misinformation and engage proactively with patients.

The world journal of men's health. 2020 Apr 10 [Epub ahead of print]

Kassandra E Zaila, Vadim Osadchiy, Robert H Shahinyan, Jesse N Mills, Sriram V Eleswarapu

Division of Andrology, Department of Urology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.